Well, what is a Freggo? It was once a Freddo but changed its name when it opened a branch in London. Its origins are Argentinian and it fair oozes a certain je ne sais quoi …or whatever that is in Spanish.
It’s an ice cream parlour, a sandwich bar, a café, a tea shop and a chic little refuge from the overwhelming buzz of London’s frantic streets. It nestles next door to its parent, Gaucho, on a pedestrianised thoroughfare just off Regent Street, offering outside seating whenever we have an approximation of a summer.
Freggo is a boutique café of striking colour and design. There is a high-backed banquette in one corner and stools and coffee tables in another. It’s PURPLE and it’s in capitals for good reason: this is corporate imaging at its slickest. It works. The Argentinian shops, those Freddos, are said to be in pale blue but London’s Freggo has pushed the envelope and discovered a style which is appropriate both for ladies wot lunch and for nightclub revellers who are seeking some sweet calories at 2am.
One might not necessarily connect Argentina with ice cream. We Europeans bow to the Italian idol of gelato or even that of a poor-quality soft ice cream sold from the back of a truck. But, when one thinks about it, one has every reason to associate Argentina with dairy products. They are celebrated for their beef (Gaucho next door is a veritable shrine to all things bovine) and what do cows make? A lot of milk. Combine that with Italian immigrants and you have a formula for ice cream heaven.
The quality of ice cream here is unbeatable. The flavours offer some very traditional Argentinian favourites which you’ll not find anywhere else on this side of a considerable stretch of ocean. There is nothing outlandish here. No mud-slide something or other. No uncooked dough (I have never understood the appeal of that). There is, however, a selection of confections that will reduce any homesick South American to tears. Try a cone or tub of Dolce de Leche which is rich enough to warrant sharing. True, it might warrant it, but you’ll be reluctant to share. This must surely be the signature ice cream.
It’s possible to offer several signature dishes in restaurants so perhaps Freggo should take the liberty of listing Malbec and Berries as a joint favourite. This is a vivid deep red sorbet-like ice with fruity but adult flavour. This could be a dessert at the end of the poshest of dinner parties and your guests would not be disappointed. It’s unique to Freggo and can be delivered in a radius of a few miles from the store.
Apart from their tempting ice cream, Freggo have a cabinet stuffed full of traditional Argentinian cakes and these are definitely worth crossing a street or two for. There is much here that is different but all those cakes and cookies that I sampled were delightful. They are made for Freggo by a South American baker in London and give a taste of authentic sweet treats.
Tarte de Marmalada is a crumbly pastry base topped with a quince jam which was tangy and moreish. Hot pancakes with ice cream and Dolce de Leche will have you hooked. The Dolce de Leche is used in many desserts and it’s addictive. It has an almost caramel cream flavour and a gooey consistency. You couldn’t eat a lot of this rich sauce, although you might like to try.
Alfajores are not to be missed. They have been popular in Argentina since the mid 19th century, but they have their roots in the Arab world. They are two discs of biscuit (cookie) sandwiched together with Dolce de Leche. Very sweet but ideal with a cup of coffee or even the prized Maté tea, which is said to contain even more antioxidants than green tea. It’s a traditional drink made from a type of holly and drunk from a small hollow gourd using a metal straw. Freggo, though, presents their Maté in a regular cup with a saucer.
If you prefer something less sweet with your cuppa then Freggo continues the South American theme with empanadas. These are pasties filled with various combinations of savoury ingredients, or try their tortilla of chorizo and beans. They also offer a spinach and mushroom frittata as well as a choice of toasted sandwiches. The soup of the day is popular in cold weather and we have plenty of that.
In short, I am taken with Freggo. It’s a simple concept of a small shop selling ice cream, drinks and snacks but it’s one of the best of that genre and the only one to my knowledge that sells such quintessentially Argentinian fare. The ambiance was stylish and comfortable and the staff charming and enthusiastic. This will be my regular central London pit-stop. I wish there were more of them.
Address: Freggo 27-29 Swallow Street, London W1B 4QR
Telephone: 020 7287 9506
Visit Freggo here
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018